There’s no doubt that 2020 has not been a typical year for any of us. I’m one of those people who actually likes change, and often bring it on myself. But when that change lasts for months on end, I too, begin to feel that strain and toll: emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Earlier this year, just as the coronavirus was making headlines in the US, I was stepping into a new role as advocate and caregiver to my mom. The heart valve replacement surgery she had in October 2019 was intended to be life-giving, but instead brought deterioration to her mind and body and she went to be with Jesus a little over four months later.
As I faced the darkest and saddest of times, I found myself grieving in a very lonely way as the stay-at-home orders were issued, church services canceled and coffee shops closed. There I stood six feet away from a co-worker with tears falling down my face as I recounted the last moments by my mother’s side, and I was being consoled with a virtual hug.
This isn’t how God designed us.
How could I be in this state of vulnerability and also be strong for others?
We’re relational, made to be in community with one another, to hug and offer a caring touch, and to cry on one another’s shoulder. It was then in my own personal grief of losing my mom that I realized that everyone, everywhere, was grieving as life as we knew it was completely disrupted. At this moment, the entire world was experiencing loss at the same time. As a wife, a mother, a friend, a leader and a boss, how was I going to continue to process my own grief and also support and care for those around me? How could I be in this state of vulnerability and also be strong for others?
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-11)
Serving the most vulnerable and going to the hard places is who we are at Food for the Hungry. The pandemic may alter how we deliver our programs for a time, but it only strengthens the resilience of our communities as they pivot and support one another through shared challenges, truly bringing lasting transformational change. As more stories of hope emerge from the fields where we work, it continues to encourage my heart and remind me that when we are weak, he is strong. In my broken and grieving state, I began to show his strength by serving others. I had been praying often for my staff, but missing our in-person interactions since the office had closed.
As leaders, we have had to be more intentional about bringing our teams together, and I’m not talking about the endless virtual meetings we’ve all been attending. I’m talking about space for non-work conversations, encouragement and opportunities to share life together. Those “drop-ins” that naturally happened when we were in the office together.
What ways have you found to reconnect and re-energize your staff?
Pick up a pack of blank note cards and take some time to write a thoughtful message to each person.
Pick up a pack of blank note cards and take some time to write a thoughtful message to each person. It’s such a simple idea, but so meaningful. You could also include a $5 gift card to a fast-food restaurant. A 20-minute break away from the house to grab an iced tea is very welcomed these days! Pull the team together for a virtual call where you don’t talk about work, and where it’s okay to wear your PJ’s!
Open a Google doc and share prayer requests or praises with one another. Invite the team to add encouraging notes to a Kudo board for someone’s birthday or special celebration. For teams who are based in the same city, find local opportunities to serve together by doing a food collection or distribution. These are just some of the ways I’ve found effective in keeping our teams connected and encouraged as they press forward in their work and our vision to end all forms of human poverty worldwide.
Brenda Long has more than 25 years of experience providing excellent technical and operational support and leadership to both domestic and international teams. She serves as the Senior Director of Infrastructure Operations at Food for the Hungry which is gearing up to celebrate its 50th year of providing purposeful relief and development in the fight against poverty. Brenda is a member of Christian Leadership Alliance’s national Advisory Council.